PUKALANI - King Kekaulike High School boys volleyball coach Scott Sniffen didn't want to tell his team that it had clinched a state berth for just the third time in school history - Na Alii have too much to do.
"We did?" outside hitter Colton Cowell said after King Kekaulike's convincing but sometimes sloppy 25-15, 25-15, 25-22 victory over Maui High on Saturday night at Na Alii's gym.
"That is definitely a relief to be going to states after this win."
Kekaulike is now 10-1 and has clinched the MIL Division I regular-season crown, while Maui High fell to 4-7.
"It was a good game, I enjoyed a lot of fire from our team, a good win overall," Cowell said after piling up 12 kills and three blocks.
The team listened to Sniffen for several minutes in the locker room after the match.
"Since we are getting down to it, coach was saying even though we are doing exceptionally well currently, we have to step it up in practice so we can step it up in the games, have a lot of fire and play hard," Cowell said.
Fellow junior Lionel Mills had eight kills for Na Alii.
"He takes a lot of the pressure off me," Cowell said. "He handles easily 50 percent of the offense. It is so easy for me when he's in there."
Mills was quick to pass the praise right back to Cowell.
"He takes so much pressure off of me," Mills said. "I know if I pass the ball to him we will definitely get points."
King Kekaulike is headed to the state tournament for the second time in three years.
"To go there again - it's a great experience - I'm stoked to go to states," Mills said. "We have a lot of work to do, mostly fixing our own errors."
King Kekaulike rolled in each of the first two sets, but had to overcome a 15-8 deficit in the third.
After a Cowell kill made the score 18-14, he rattled off three straight service winners and Don Thompson added a block to tie the score. Mills then slammed home a kill to give Na Alii a 19-18 lead.
Chase Iwata-Bartelme had a block to put King Kekaulike in front 23-21 and two Maui High errors ended the contest.
"For them, it's big and I actually didn't want to tell them," Sniffen said of the state berth. "I figured they would figure it out. It's their game and I think they deserve it. I just try to guide them."
Jaryn Kuhaulua-Feiteira had 14 kills for the Sabers.
"They are a good team, we just had too many mental errors," said Maui High coach Philip Velasco. "You know, everything we work on, we are just not translating that to the game."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org